MONTICELLO — A former Mississippi Chancery Court judge pleaded guilty yesterday to a federal charge of obstruction of justice.
Joe Dale Walker, 61, of Monticello, pleaded in connection to witness tampering alleged in documents filed in U.S. District Court in Jackson, U.S. Attorney Gregory K. Davis and FBI Special Agent in Charge Don Always said in a news release.
Walker was accused of instructing a federal grand jury witness to destroy documents and then lie to FBI agents. Davis has said the alleged tampering covered a period from Aug. 7, 2013, until March 25.
According to the release from Davis’ office, Walker directed an attorney he had appointed for a conservatorship to solicit bids for the construction of a home for the ward. Five bids were obtained, including one from Walker’s nephew, Chad Teater, d/b/a C.T. Construction.
Walker reviewed the bids in his chambers and, upon discovering that Teater’s bid was much lower than the others, he instructed Teater to raise his bid, the release said. Teater subsequently submitted another bid.
Walker transferred the case to another judge for the limited purpose of accepting and approving bids because of his nephew’s involvement. After the contract was awarded to Teater, the case was transferred back to Walker.
Prior to Aug. 7, 2013, a grand jury subpoena was served upon a witness to appear and bring any and all documents relating to the conservatorship. Walker met with the witness and was informed of the subpoena. During the meeting, Walker and the witness discussed Teater’s original bid and that Walker had instructed the witness to tell Teater to raise it. Walker also asked the witness about the original bid and any existing copies.
When interviewed by the FBI, Walker denied ever talking with the witness about Teater’s two bids and denied telling the witness that Teater’s original bid needed to be “somewhere else” in response to the subpoena.
Bob Evans, a Monticello attorney who represents Walker, could not be reached for comment. A telephone call to his office went unanswered yesterday.
Walker resigned in May from the bench covering Jefferson Davis, Lawrence, Simpson and Smith counties.
U.S. District Judge David C. Bramlette III will sentence Walker Jan. 8. He faces up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.